In its six years of existence, jazzahead! in Bremen has grown in stature and importance. In the words of one UK industry figure, it has now unquestionably become “most important jazz conference in the world.”
What is jazzahead! ? It describes itself on its website – using one of those great compound nouns which can only really exist in German – as a “Conference-Festival-Meet-And-Greet-Tradefair-Symposium-Showcase-Event.”
I interviewed jazzahead! Artistic Director Ulli Beckerhoff by telephone. A trumpeter and composer with a distinguishedplaying career, he has run jazzahead! in partnership with former radio producer Peter Schulze (official title Artistic Consultant but de facto Co-Director ) since its inception. However, with that modesty which is typical for jazz, Beckerhoff refuses to take any of the credit for having started it. He gives that honour to Hans Peter Schneider, who runs Messe Bremen. Beckerhoff (below) says that Schneider came and approached him with the already partly-formed idea of a jazz trade fair.
Schneider and his team at Messe Bremen do indeed seem like an imaginative lot, to say the least . In April they will also be hosting – wait for it – fairs for …Chidren’s Toys and Clothes, Reptiles and Amphibians, School Leaver Careers , Model Railways…… so jazzahead! will be rounding off a pretty varied month.
There will be at least 300 jazz organisations participating in the professional meeting. This year there will be participants from countries not previously represented: Russia, Brazil, Indonesia and Greece. One highlight is the award of the valuable annual jazzahead! -Skoda Jazz Prize – this year going to Claude Nobs of Montreux. (See our previous news story).
There is also an extensive music programme. In previous years it has been centred around the Schlachthof venue. This year the organizers have a different ambtion – to make the “whole city vibrate with music.” Some observers are sceptical, and fear that the focus of the conference may be dispersed. Beckerhoff is excited about the programme.
The first name he mentioned to me was that of the most successful pop singer and producer in Turkey, Sezen Aksu.
Here she is, singing “şinanay” (it’s -interestingly – a word which I’m told everyone in Turkey understands, but which Google Translate doesn’t even attempt!)
I also noted that the Rotterdam Ska Jazz Foundation will be at a DJ club called Tower, that at the Rooftop there will be another Turkish musician, Ezra Dalfidan who works with Paer Lemmers from Berlin. Radio Hall will be hosting an ECM showcase with bands led by Swiss pianist Colin Vallon and Norwegian trumpeter Matthias Eick
The UK presence is expected to be around 30 industry people. In 2009 there was a UK band showcase with four UK bands.This year the only British band playing is Partisans. They’re on the Thursday.
jazzahead! runs from April 28th to May 1st. (See you there?)